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New oaks planted to continue Auburn tradition

February 27, 2015

PHB - Auburn 4

The trees are back at Toomer’s Corner in Auburn, Alabama, but it will be the fall of 2016 before students can celebrate by lofting rolls of toilet paper into them.

Last October, we reported on how Auburn students, for generations, would roll the trees at Toomer’s Corner — and how that tradition came to an abrubt end after a rival Alabama fan poisoned the oaks in the aftermath of Auburn’s come-from-behind 28-27 victory over Alabama in 2010. An attempt to save the trees ultimately failed and they were taken down in April 2013.

Pine Hall Brick Company’s StormPave pavers were used as part of a subsequent renovation.  Landscape architect Tommy Holcombe, PLA, ASLA, LEED AP, of Birmingham, Alabama-based landscape architect firm Holcombe Norton Partners Inc. outlined the steps that were taken to both treat the hazardous waste and improve the area. Initially, the site was excavated to a depth of six feet and the two root balls of the oak trees were removed. Experts estimated that the trees were about 85 years old.

PHB - Planting the Oaks

Photo credit to WAFF-TV in Huntsville, Alabama

All of the material taken away, which was still laced with the herbicide, had to be disposed of under strict federal guidelines that regulate the disposal of hazardous waste.

A liner was put into place. Silva cells were used to bridge underneath sidewalks. Structural soil to support root growth was put into place. Three feet down, installers put in precisely measured layers of aggregates, with StormPave permeable pavers by Pine Hall Brick Company on top.

On Valentine’s Day, trucks loaded down with three trees – 35 feet high and 35 feet across – ended a trip that had begun at a nursery in South Carolina. Auburn officials went through 9,000 trees before choosing the three that were used. Two of the three were planted at Toomer’s Corner to replace the original oaks and the third was planted on campus, some distance away. If either of the two at the corner die, which sometimes occurs when trees are transplanted, the tree on campus will be transplanted to Toomer’s Corner. Auburn officials said that the trees were chosen with branches high enough for pedestrians on the sidewalk and large trucks in the street.

PHB - Planting the Oaks 2

Photo credit to WAFF-TV in Huntsville, Alabama

The planting of the oaks is the final step in Phase I of the Samford Park renovation. The second phase, slated to begin in April, will feature the planting of 30 15-foot-tall trees – grown from acorns collected from the original oaks – between Toomer’s Corner and Samford Hall.

Why wait for the celebration? It turns out that there is so much toilet paper customarily left in the trees that they have to send for the fire department to come over and blast it out of the trees with fire hoses. The problem is that transplanted trees need time to develop a strong root system – and it’s feared that blasting away at the trees will damage them.

Once the Auburn team collects a win in the 2016 football season, the toilet paper will fly and the firehoses will come out. And the water that hits the ground will run in between the StormPave pavers and held in the aggregate layers below. Our advice? Don’t let the wet toilet paper clog up the voids between the pavers or the system won’t work.


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